Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy


Hispanic Studies


Ratcliffe, Marjorie


The mythification of the character of Queen Juana I of Castile is the subject of this thesis. The biographical and literary representation are discussed from the biographical and literary perspectives which implies the study of two fundamental aspects in the formation of this myth: woman-power and madness. The main objective of this research is to break down the myth known today as Juana, “the mad” through historical and literary analyses.

This work is part of new Hispanic medievalism because it explains a phenomenon that began in the Middle Ages. The five chapters affirm that, in the case of Juana I of Castile, there is a detachment of the original historical character from the 19th century and passes into popular culture through the media such as theater, painting and commercial biography. When this happens, Juana acquires varied interpretations in different cultural and temporal spheres where a mythification is observed. Consequently, the representation of the character acquires features of the historical moment in which it is presented. The name - not the image - can be assigned to a restaurant, a musical group, the title of a song or a clothing, to name but a few examples. The constant is that they each have a distant but independent reference to its historical context to re-signify with each contemporary expression. In Barthes’ term, the historical character becomes a myth.

Summary for Lay Audience

This thesis explains the process by which the character of Juana I, Queen of Castile, went from being a historical character who lived in the twilight of the Middle Ages (1479-1555) to become a benchmark over the years in contemporary popular culture where she is identified by a nickname, the madwoman. In this process, painting, literature, and written biography have influenced their audiences. In each form of media, the historical and cultural context give a different meaning to this character. The result of the sequence of events is the conversion of the character into a myth. Juana, “the mad” is a name that acquires traits that transmitters and receivers have assigned it, regardless of whether they are far from the historically verifiable data.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.